Chail, Himachal Pradesh

Chail was essentially a sleepy little mountain village set in a beautiful locale till the 19th century. Its transformation began in 1893, when the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala decided to create a new summer capital which would be ‘better’ than Shimla; all this for a bruised ego, after he was banished from Shimla for eloping with Lord Kitchner’s daughter. Lord Kitchner just happened to be the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army at that time.

The present Chail is spread over an area of 72 acres on three adjacent hills-the Rajgarh Hill where the Palace is built, the Pandava Hill where the old Residency ‘Snow View’ is located and where the British Resident lived, and finally the Siddh Tibba, where the temple of Baba Sidhnath is located at a height of 2226 ft. The British Resident stayed at another beautiful building called ‘Snow View’, this is with the Indian Army these days. Nestling in the shelter of virgin forests which cover many untrodden hills, Chail is a tiny resort in the Shiwalik region of Himachal Pradesh and has interesting history; The British Government annexed Chail from the Gurkha General Amar Singh in 1814, along with Shimla Hills. Later, the British Government gifted Chail, a quiet hamlet, part of the erstwhile Keonthal estate, to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh.

One has to see to believe what poets and writers have been describing the Himalayas as since time immemorial. One is awestruck to see the massive Himalayan ranges, their snow-capped peaks spectacularly gleaming in the sun. It is definitely an out-of-this-world sight and one can spend hours and hours together, admiring the magic it creates in the mind. The snow remains there until the beginning of the spring when the flowers come out in full bloom. This is the time when the meadows are filled with hyacinth and celandine, while the carmine and rhododendron trees are surrounded by solemn forests of deodar and towering pine trees. A must see in this place is the palace of the maharaja. Built on three hills, the palace is on Rajgarh Hill, while the Residency Snow View, which was occupied once upon a time by the British Resident, is on Pandhewa Hill. On the third hill, Sabba Tibba, is the township of Chail. The maharaja had planned this palace as a retreat, replete with all necessary things he’d need for relaxation, and therefore, he built hunting and fishing lodges, which are open to the public.